Chinese Liquid propulsion engines (L) have an uncanny resemblance to Soviet & Russian units

To meet demand for manned moon landings, deep space missions: Developers

Closely following the heart-stopping and spectacular launch of the Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft on Saturday, China has made another breakthrough in its aerospace technology, as researchers at the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT) announced on Tuesday they conducted a successful running test of a domestically developed solid rocket engine, with a thrust of more than 500 tons, in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, setting a world record in the field,

The Global Times learned from the AASPT, which is affiliated with state-owned aerospace giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), that the 3.5-meter-diameter solid engine's fuel load reached 150 tons.

The successful test signals significant progress in China's solid carrier rocket technology and lays the foundation for the development of large-scale, heavy-lift launch vehicle technology.

The development of the 500-ton thrust solid engine has entered the engineering application stage, while the landmark test opened up a key technology link for the development of China's 1,000-ton solid thrust engine, the academy said in a statement sent to the Global Times.

The research and development of rocket engine technology has led the development of launch vehicles, with several steps along the way.

In 2009, China developed a 2-meter-diameter, 120-ton-thrust solid engine, a record at that time, which directly pushed forward the development of the country's first solid carrier rocket, the Long March-11.

In 2016, by successfully linking 120-ton thrust engines, the country's first bundled solid booster launch vehicle - the Long March-6A - won state approval for development.

In 2019, the roll-out of a 2.6-meter-diameter, 200-ton-thrust solid engine drove the project approval of the development of the Smart Dragon-3 (SD-3) commercial carrier rocket.

As the latest member of the CALT Smart Dragon commercial rocket family, the SD-3 gained project approval on December 31, 2020, and China will launch the new make through a seaborne platform in the first half of 2022, Jiang Jie, a CALT rocket expert, told the Global Times.

According to CALT, the 2.64-meter-diameter SD-3 with a 3.35-meter-diameter nose cone is the largest and strongest in the Smart Dragon rocket series. It is capable of sending a payload of 1.5 tons into 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.

Jiang, who is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, revealed that the SD-3 aims to meet the market need for launches of large-scale commercial satellite constellations, as it is capable of sending as many as 20 satellites in one go.

The SD-3 would reduce the unit cost of payloads to $10,000 per kilogram, said CALT, highlighting the model's strong market competitiveness.

Researchers with the academy told the Global Times on Tuesday that they believe the new 500-ton thrust engine offers more options for large and heavy-lift carrier rockets.

Observers said that the running test of the powerful solid engine set a new high in the field, lifting China's large-scale solid rocket engine technology to world-leading levels, and will provide China's new solid carrier rockets with more powerful and cost-effective advanced power. It will also significantly enhance the competitiveness of solid rockets in the commercial space launch market.

Based on the single 500-ton-thrust solid engine, the academy has set out to research a 3.5-meter-diameter five-stage engine, which would provide a total thrust of more than 1,000 tons, which is expected to be applied in the boosters of large and heavy-lift engines.

Such new technology would meet the demand of China's space program such as manned moon landings and deep space exploration, the academy revealed.